No-Code or Low-Code?

The term "low-code" has been rising in prominence, but there are key differences between it and fully no-code programming. 

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To the uninitiated, no-code and low-code software solutions sound similar. Some even think the two terms are interchangeable. But the reality is far more complicated. Choose one type of solution, and you are likely to get the benefits of faster digital product development at less cost. Choose the other, and you could suffer a serious case of buyers’ remorse.

The evolution of coding in insurtech

All systems, going back to the days of mainframes, came with certain configuration capabilities. Traditionally, if you wanted to change a system’s core behaviors, you needed to know how to write code in a programming language. These languages matured from the early days of Basic, COBOL and Pascal to modern-day languages like Python and JavaScript. Making significant changes with coding often took weeks or longer. In fact, where coding language is concerned, little has changed in terms of speed of process.

No-code solutions trace their origins back to the 1980s and the advent of Microsoft Excel, which many consider the first program that enabled developers to manipulate data without code. But enterprise-grade no-code platforms didn’t emerge until the early 2000s.

Today, no-code platforms exist across all industries. By definition, no-code in insurtech is exactly what it sounds like: It allows you to build workflows, screens, documents, products and rates without knowing any programming language. This means you don’t have to translate your knowledge to developers and other IT professionals. Instead, you are empowered to make changes yourself. And because you don’t need to know coding, you can make substantial updates in mere minutes.

True no-code platforms are designed to be no-code from the start. You can’t take a legacy, coding-heavy platform and make it low-code without rebuilding the entire system. Unfortunately, this is where the waters have become murky.

See also: An Insurance Agent's Guide to SEO Marketing

Why confusion reigns

Over the past few years, in response to the no-code movement, we have seen the term "low-code" rise in prominence. It sounds enticing. After all, low brings the connotation of less, so you would assume low-code platforms require only a small amount of coding.

That assumption can be, and often is, wrong. By definition, any platform calling itself low-code still requires coding at some level. This means the do-it-yourself service that comes with no-code simply isn’t the same in a low-code environment because some level of coding — and the technical training required to both understand and implement coding language — is required. 

Low-code solutions exist on a spectrum. Some low-code software may have pre-prepared forms that don’t require much coding. Others are old-fashioned, code-rich systems where even the smallest change needs code; hence, they unashamedly wear a marketing disguise.

Some longtime incumbents use the term "low- code" to reintroduce dated technology that can require heavy coding over months or years — along with millions of dollars — to implement. These vendors may believe using a term like "low code" makes their software feel modern. But when legacy providers use this terminology, it perpetuates the unfortunate overpromise-and-underdeliver reputation of older core systems that have already left a bitter taste in the mouths of insurance leaders.

Why knowing the difference matters

When you choose a no-code platform rather than a low-code product, you stand to gain benefits in these three essential areas.

1. Staffing. All systems that require coding — even if they’re called low-code — need support from IT professionals. This is both a concern and an expense for many insurers. Experienced coders are hard to find, and recruiting and retaining your own team of developers year over year is expensive. If you choose low-code and don’t have your own developers, you will need to rely on your vendor, which can add to your costs.

With no-code, you don’t need an IT team or even vendor support. You can empower your best, detail-oriented strategic thinkers, including spreadsheet gurus and product managers, to make changes and upgrades. These users are already embedded within your business, understand your processes and eliminate the need for additional headcount. 

2. Training and implementation. Low-code platforms require extensive training before your IT team can start to use the system, which lengthens implementation timelines. In contrast, no-code platforms offer a much lower barrier to entry. You can complete training in days rather than months. 

3. Cost structure. This benefit may not seem obvious at first, because no-code and low-code solutions may carry similar upfront costs. However, the cost savings differ significantly over time. With low code, every change to a form and each adjustment in coverage may cost you thousands as well as numerous days or weeks to adapt. With no-code, your professionals can make these changes themselves, in real time, with no extra expense other than a few hours spent making the adjustments.

Can no-code really solve complex problems?

Some insurers believe no-code isn’t suited to build the type of game-changing software they need. Yet that is not entirely true.

The capabilities of no-code platforms vary by vendor. Some are workflow management tools designed to solve only certain steps in the insurance value chain. Hence, they are not built to scale and handle complex processes like managing regulatory changes across 50 states or building complex rules to cover out-of-sequence endorsements.

However, other no-code platforms are complete insurance-specific platforms, designed to meet an insurer’s needs from end to end. These systems are purpose-built to manage the intricacies of carriers, brokers and MGAs. Best of all, because you don’t have to translate your knowledge to IT teams, you can start building products and writing premium with end-to-end no-code solutions immediately, creating a thoughtful speed-to-market process that is increasingly required in the competitive landscape of insurance.

What can you accomplish with a no-code platform versus a low-code or fully coded solution? One of the most powerful no-code use cases is creating complex and non-standard insurance products. Traditional and low-code solutions often lock insurers into standard product lines, such as personal auto or commercial property. By contrast, no-code gives you a clean slate, allowing you to build solutions that manage non-traditional risks or package policies.

Flexibility is the secret sauce in this type of accelerated product development lifecycle. With no-code, you can capture data in the user experience all the way through to rating, documents and integration, all without altering a single line of code.

See also: Why Are Digital Payments So Clunky?

Can I leverage AI and IoT with no-code?

If you are looking to embrace the power of artificial intelligence (AI) and Internet of Things (IoT) devices, a no-code platform is an optimal choice for two reasons:

1. Ease of integration: Building integrations is one of the most time-consuming processes of traditional software implementations — and most legacy vendors have extensive implementation backlogs. No-code systems accelerate and simplify the process by using built-in application programming interfaces (APIs) and webhooks to connect with other apps. A no-code platform with a rating system, for example, may have a point-and-click API step that lets you call data from an external IoT source, such as a telematics device. As a result, you can complete this type of integration in hours or days, not weeks.

2. Faster AI implementation: The large language models (LLMs) that empower AI-enabled solutions are only as accurate as the data used to train them. No-code eliminates the need for complex data manipulation, empowering you to integrate and use AI solutions faster and more accurately.

How do I know I’m not getting fooled?

You would not drive off the lot with a new car before you looked under the hood. The same is true when evaluating no-code and low-code solutions. Five best practices to include in your decision-making process are:

  • Rely on show, not tell. Ask vendors to show you exactly what it looks like to set up coverages, rates, documents, quoting flow portals and other workflows in their system. If any part of the workflow requires involvement from IT professionals on their team or your team, then their solution is low-code and not no-code.
  • Perform a stress test. Create a complex use case that covers the product development lifecycle from start to finish. Then ask the vendor to complete it. Along the way, assess how much of the journey — from the front-end user experience through to integration — your business users can manage and how much support you need from your vendor.
  • Request customer success stories. Seek tangible examples from companies within insurance. Then, ask some key questions: How long did implementation take? What was the timeframe for each successful project? How much was the customer able to do without technical resources from the vendor?
  • Connect with your peers. As you narrow down your choice of solutions, reach out to peers who are already working with the same vendor. Ask how they divide up roles and responsibilities on their team. If they tell you they need IT resources to perform updates, then you will know the solution you are considering is low-code and not no-code.
  • Choose your support tolerance. An end-to-end no-code platform will give you flexibility to build products on your terms. You should have a choice of doing everything yourself or using your vendor if you might prefer to do so. If a vendor says DIY isn’t possible, then you are not looking at a no-code platform.

Tim Hardcastle

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Tim Hardcastle

Tim Hardcastle is the CEO and co-founder of Instanda,


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